Norma Castillo’s Legacy
By Ana Isabel Gil
Click aqui para español- > El legado de Norma Castillo
With courage and determination, Norma Castillo learned everything about a bakery in just six months. She learned how to make cakes, desserts, bread, and many Cuban treats. She is a native of Villanueva, Honduras, so there was some controversy when she won the award for the best Cuban sandwich in New Orleans, right after Katrina.
Norma is the first name that comes to mind for Latinos who are looking for a special occasion cake or a traditional treat of Latin American cuisines like her famous tres leches dessert or her guava pastries.
She remembers lovingly the encouragement her late husband gave her to get her bakery. At 47 years old, when she stopped fearing failure, she did it. That idea was present since her former employer and mentor, Don Tomas, approached her when she worked at the casino to offer her a job running his bakery. She excitedly answered yes. Don Tomas, who is no longer with us, gave Norma a chance to start over.
In 2003, she opened the doors to Norma’s Sweets Bakery in Kenner. She opened her second location in New Orleans about 12 years ago with her son José Lorenzo, who helps her run it.
Last year, she moved her business in Kenner to a spacious and modern space a few yards from the original premises. Norma’s International Market & Bakery reflects the growth of her business and her brand. Her youngest son, Manolo, helps to manage it.
Customers who have known Norma for over fifteen years describe her as “a fighter and a woman who works very hard to achieve what she wants.” Others say they admire her and consider her a role model that many in the Latino community should follow.
Norma is proud of her accomplishment, but most importantly, she feels fulfilled for building a legacy to leave to her children and grandchildren. She hopes they will carry on the family business and will remember her for it.
The key to having a prosperous business, according to Norma, comes in two steps:
Plan: “When you have a plan, you always have to get organized, learn and do it.” If you have a clear idea and know what you would like to do, you must get into a business you have learned everything about, know how to do it, and manage it.
Action: “It is important to find good employees and treat those who help you in the business well. When they see their workplace as their own, they take good care of business.” Norma stresses the importance of doing things with honesty and working on something that one enjoys.